Lille-Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Region-France

AN INDUSTRIOUS LAND WITH FLEMISH INFLUENCE

Northern France

Northern France is comprised of 2 official regions:

Nord-Pas de Calais

Standing as the northernmost region of France, Nord-Pas de Calais is bordered by the English Channel and the North Sea to the north and Belgium to the northeast. This is a region whose lands are fertile for agriculture and whose coast is lined with sandy beaches and whose inland is home to soft countryside. There are a few main destinations to stop by if you decide to visit this region — one of them would be Lille.

A place that first thrived and gained recognition in the 19th century, Lille developed a significant textile, mining, cotton and transportation industries, and has strong roots in the “Flanders” culture. As with many other French cities, Lille was first inhabited by the Gauls, and later was conquered by the Vikings, and saw the beginnings of its identity as the “cloth industry” heartland during the Middle Ages. There are many must-see sites to visit in Lille, among them the city cathedral; the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, a museum constructed under Napoleon and which stands today as the largest museum outside of Paris; and plenty of botanical gardens, parks as well as beautiful public squares. Equally intriguing is the city of Roubaix, located right next to Lille, a city known for its art history, culture and architecture, and one also once situated in the country’s textile heartland.

If you’re in the mood for visiting the seaside, head to Côte d’Opale, or the “opal coast,” known for its magnificent cliffs and dunes.

Picardie

Here is a region that has developed an incredibly rich cultural history over the centuries — Picardy, or Picardie, as the French spell it, is a place where many medieval battles were fought, including the battle of Crécy, one of the most memorable battles of the Hundred Years’ War; as well as where many ruling dynasties have come to pass, including the Hapsburgs and English and Spanish rulers.

If you are interested in touring a majestic old, medieval city and its glorious remains, go to Amiens, in the north of the region, in the department of Somme. First inhabited by the Gauls, Amiens was besieged time and again by different peoples, including barbarian tribes and later by the Normans. It is perhaps most famous for being the site of the Cathedral of Amiens, which stands today as the tallest Gothic-styled cathedral in France. Also visit the Municipal Circus, which is one of the oldest remaining original circuses of the world today. Aside from the circus, there are other famous theaters in Amiens, as well as museums. For those who are planning to visit this region during the winter months, there will be a marvelous Christmas market in this city, which is famous for being the largest of its kind in northern France.

Other great places to visit in Picardy are Beauvais, home of an extremely tall and impressive cathedral; Laon, for those who are interested in seeing medieval walled cities and early cathedrals; and Chantilly, home to beautiful 19th-century castles and palaces of the nobility.

Events

International Kite Festival at Berck-sur-Mer
April 12-21

People all over the world love flying kites and wherever there’s wind, there’s always someone who wants to play with it and master it. But to really understand wind power, you need to visit the International Kite Festival organized in Berck-sur-Mer every April in front of some 600,000 spectators.  Eyes fixed on the sky, young and old are kept spellbound by the dexterity and imagination of kite flyers from all corners of the globe.

Le Jardin des Boves in Arras
March 22 to July 1

For three months between March and June, the old chalk quarries beneath the famous arcaded square in Arras are transformed into the ‘Jardin des Boves’, named after the local word for these ancient tunnels.  Launched ten years ago to promote interest in this historic underground maze, the event welcomes some 20,000 visitors who enjoy the unique opportunity to wander through a world of fantasy and fun, guaranteed to fire their imagination.

Lille Braderie (Lille Flea Market)
September 6-7

More than 2 million visitors from all over Europe flock to Lille for the annual street market over the first weekend in September.
Each year over the first weekend in September, the capital of French Flanders is packed with up to 3 million visitors as local residents and shopkeepers empty their attics for the 33 hours of the famous Lille Braderie or street market.  The event dates back to the 12th century when servants were allowed to sell off their employers’ unwanted goods and keep the proceeds as part of the Assumption festival, the name Braderie coming from the Flemish and Spanish words for ‘bargain’.

La Fête Jeanne d’Arc
June

The Picardy summer season kicks off with the Joan of Arc Festival. The festival takes place in the town of Compiègne and re-enacts Joan of Arc’s last visit the area before she was captured in 1430. A local woman plays Joan of Arc and attends a church mass in character before leading a procession through the town. At the end of the procession, the crowds head to the bridge where the real Joan of Arc was captured.

La Fête des Roses
June

This one-day festival of roses takes place in June in the town of Gerberoy. Widely believed to be one of the most beautiful towns in the whole country, Gerberoy is full of roses at this time of year and looks prettier than ever. The historical medieval part of the town is a wonderful spot for sightseeing and taking photographs. As well as numerous displays of roses, the festival also features street entertainment with folk dancing and singing. Food, drink and souvenir stalls pop up all over the town making this a great day out for the whole family.

Foire aux Fromages
September

A festival for food-lovers, this huge celebration of cheese takes place each September. Hosted by the town of La Capelle; the fair features literally thousands of different types of cheese. Cheese producers come from all over the country to share their wares and take part in competitions. If you’re staying in one of the gites in Picardy, this is a great way to stock up your fridge with some of the finest French cheeses. As well as old favourites, expect to find lots of new twists on classic cheeses.

France.com Blog

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